Saturday, August 23, 2014

Princess Ugg, Volume 1

Some mornings, before coffee has taken full effect, I find myself pondering the strangest things on my drive to work.  Last Friday, I was thinking about a phrase that kept cropping up in many of the reviews of Princess Ugg on Goodreads: "fish out of water."  Technically, a fish out of water is a dead fish.  I know that it actually means being totally out of one's element or natural habitat, as a fish belongs in water and so to put him anywhere else causes him to react strongly.  And then die.  So I thought about the morbid connotations of this phrase, and how blithely we use it to describe various works of film and literature.  "A fun twist on the classic 'fish out of water' tale" is like saying "a fun twist on death by drowning in air!" which, I admit, is a bit morbid.  That's why I need more coffee.

At any rate, I never once thought to myself while reading Princess Ugg, Volume 1 "Oh, this is such a standard story;" I thought, "I love what Naifeh is doing to the princess tropes."  And really, what's so wrong with using a familiar idea, as long as you inject life and humor into it?

Well, uff da!  Ted Naifeh's latest awesome leading lady, the Princess Ülga, has stolen my heart.  No, really. She's holding it for ransom with her massive battle axe.

Princess Ugg is a ridiculously fun romp though Pretty Pretty Princess Land from the eyes of an outsider: Princess Ülga of the Grimmerians (think Vikings with a broad Scottish brogue) wishes to fulfill her mother's wish that the Grimmerian war with the Frost Giants be solved in a different way.  To do so, Ülga feels she must learn how to be a princess, so she travels to the five kingdoms to attend princess school.  If you think that she took the nearest palanquin or carriage, you thought wrong.  She rides her exceedingly large mammoth, Snorri, right into the city, where she crashes into another princess, knocks her into a dung heap, and escapes one of the royal guard ... falling right through a glass window to land in front of her headmistress.  Let the games begin.

Her father's immortal raven companion, Odin (all the mythology people please geek out now), keeps tabs on her while she's at school and provides the reader with a hilarious running commentary on Ülga's progress ... or lack thereof.  For example, here's Odin's opening lines:

"Attend, O travellers from distant lands, for I shall sing unto thee ... of swords and sorority ... of high adventure ... and higher education!"

I knew at that precise moment that I would love this graphic novel.

As you can imagine, none of the other Pretty Pretty Princesses are pleased to room, eat, and learn with Ülga--they mock her by calling her "Princess Ugg" (which, of course, calls to mind the shoe for modern readers--zing!).  She is so unlike them, but the great part is that she is proud that she is different.  Ülga does not walk into this situation saying, "Make me just like them," but rather "Teach me how to be even more awesome than I already am."

In the end, Ülga realizes that book-balancing and fork-choosing and minuet-dancing are not her priorities, but the art of diplomacy--ah, that would make her a very good queen indeed.  Her first attempts at diplomacy, many of them involving a nefarious unicorn, are hilarious yet heartfelt.

Naifeh keeps this light-hearted and witty without being overly silly, and I've utterly fallen for Ülga.  I can't wait for more of her adventures and I will most definitely be buying this series for the library!

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.

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